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5 Grad School Survival Tips for Full-Time Workers

AdultStudentAn advanced degree can increase your earning power and help you get ahead in your field by leaps and bounds. But in today’s economy, many full-time workers can’t afford to take time off to earn an advanced degree — even though it might be necessary for their career advancement. It might be challenging to find time to work and get a graduate degree, not to mention family and personal time, but it’s possible. You just need to choose the right program, plan carefully, get your boss and family on board with the plan and make your health a priority throughout the program, so you can maintain the stamina you need to succeed.

Choose the Right Program

A big part of succeeding in grad school while working full-time is finding a program that accommodates your work schedule. Online programs are an excellent option for any career path — when you go back to school online for a Masters in Criminal Justice, for example, you can gain the skills you need to advance into an administrative role on your own schedule. You could also consider a part-time program, or a full-time program that’s designed to accommodate the needs of working professionals.

Get Your Boss on Board

You can’t work full-time and earn a graduate degree without letting your boss in on the plan — whether you need to show up in person for classes in a brick-and-mortar setting, or you’re taking your classes entirely online. Talk to your boss about your grad school plans well ahead of time. If you’ve been out of college for a while, chances are you will need a letter of recommendation from your boss, anyway.

Make sure your boss knows exactly how your post-graduate studies can add to your value as an employee. The more your organization can benefit from your advanced education, the greater the chances your boss will work with you to accommodate your study needs. You might even get some company money to help finance your degree.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

If you want to find time to meet your work and family responsibilities while earning a graduate degree, you will need to plan study and personal time in advance. Even before you start grad school, sit down and work out a schedule to help you complete entrance exams and gather your application materials in time to meet the deadline. Once you’re in school, plan ahead to make sure you have time for important upcoming family obligations, like graduations, holidays and weddings, while still meeting the requirements of your program and your job. On a weekly basis, sit down with your day planner and schedule in time to study, time for your family and friends and time for yourself.

Use Vacation Time Wisely

When you’re a working adult in grad school, you won’t have time to pull all-nighters every time there’s a big project or test due. Stretch yourself too thin and your stress levels will skyrocket. Your job performance could suffer and you could even make yourself sick. However, you will probably still need to cram for tests and make time for big school projects.

By planning ahead, you can use your vacation days to take time off work when you know you’ll need to study for a big test or focus on completing a school project. Just make sure you ask for the days off ahead of time, instead of calling in sick the day before every exam. That way, your boss will remain understanding about your educational responsibilities.

Put Your Health First

Juggling the demands of a full-time work schedule with a full-time school schedule requires a lot of physical stamina. If you don’t make your health a priority, you’ll burn out quickly — and could even succumb to a full-on health crisis. Make sure you get eight to nine hours of sleep a night, eat a healthy diet, get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week and practice stress-management so you don’t get overwhelmed. You might think that you don’t have time to take care of yourself properly, but in fact, you don’t have time not to. If you neglect your health, you’ll soon find you don’t have it in you to fulfill your other obligations, either.

It’s not easy to manage the demands of grad school while working full time, but if can be done. All it takes is some careful planning and the willingness to make your education a priority.

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